Reviewed by: Nicola Osborne

Childhood is never easy, but when you're broke, bullied and have just destroyed your dad's new camera you don't need the added stress of your friend's dog going AWOL... But wait, you have a plan!

In this variation on the familiar Famous Five format the kids, but with an edge, the parents get to play around like mad and the baddies get to ham it up menacingly. The film is primarily focused on young Blinker (parents can be so cruel!) and his various adventures over the course of a summer... including young love.

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Surrounded by a very credible family set-up Joren Seldeslachts does extremely well in making Blinker interesting, bright and sensitive without ever descending into saccharine cliche. There are darker elements to the plot that are clever and a touch scary right up until near the end.

The ingenuity and design skills of Blinker, his best friend and their slightly backward pal are put to the test with their efforts to defeat the bullies and win a competition for new inventions - during which they show off some impressive building skills, although one gets a wee bit worried when they're tinkering with power tools!

Part of what makes the film so watchable, though, is the level of respect that the director and the characters within the film have for the young leads. The parents never patronize, and Blinker's father has a child-like enthusiasm for his obsessive hobbies and family. That one of the leads seemed to mildly swear and Blinker's female relatives sunbathe naked, indicate this is a film where children's lives are no different on screen than off.

Perhaps the most interesting breach of normal child film is the generousness of the characters. Whilst they are pleasingly polite, friendly and tolerant they are not like this easily and the teasing of the backward Mats (Benny Claessens) is a particularly touching example of the realism, with him receiving abuse or being patronized by all but Blinker. Though the bullies are not stunningly real, they are menacing enough and the boredom that leads to their behaviour is hinted at.

A fun and enjoyable kids' romp which will certainly keep both youngsters and their parents amused, this is one of the better films for this age group (at that difficult point hovering between young childhood and teenager).

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Intelligent adventure film for kids with its heart in the right place.

Director: Filip Van Neyghem

Writer: Rudi Van Den Bossche, based on the book by Marc de Bal

Starring: Joren Seldeslachts, Melissa Gorduyn, Mattias Meersmans, Saskia Aelen, Benny Claessens, Warre Borgmans, Els Olaerts, Chris Lomme, Mieke Verheyden, Natalie Meskens

Year: 1999

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: Belgium


EIFF 2000

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